If you're new to gathering in circle, you might have a few questions about what happens and how they can help our wellbeing...
Before I'd been to one, I wondered how a dedicated women's circle would be any different from a group of friends chatting - I was curious about the need to mark out time and work with a facilitator. Would it be any different from a normal conversation? After my first circle, these questions answered themselves. It was such a supportive and powerful space - hard to articulate in words, but I will try and do so here to give you an idea of what to expect.
By coming together in a circle, each person has consciously carved out time for this connection - both to themselves and to others in the group. Phones are away, attention is focused, and nobody is trying to keep half an eye on children or dogs who have wandered half-way down the beach! There is an agreement to be fully present and listening for the time we are together. This alone can be huge in our modern daily lives.
We set the scene by choosing a beautiful environment and I will create a centre piece which our circle will surround. This is both a practical focus point, as well as holding spiritual meaning for those who wish to delve deeper on this level as well. Anyone joining the circle is invited to bring objects to add to the centre piece - these could be natural materials, crystals, candles, images or affirmations. (The idea is similar to that of creating a mandala). The idea of the circle shape is that everyone is equidistant from the centre. Although I will hold the practical role of facilitator, I am not leading, we are all sitting together to share.
We will settle into our space with a short meditation or perhaps some mindful breathing. This is low-intensity and super accessible whether or not you have done meditation or breathwork before.
In each circle we'll with a gentle kind of introduction or check-in, just to help everyone find their voice. After this, I might offer a prompt or theme, but ultimately the space will be open for anyone who would like to speak and be listened to.
There is a magic in speaking and being truly listened to.
Can you remember a recent time when you felt deeply heard and acknowledged? So many of us lose this in our busy lives, and it feels so special to make space for this practice of focused speaking and listening in our circles. Kate Murphy's book 'You're Not Listening' explores this wonderfully.
There is no obligation to speak at any particular length or depth, and crucially, the rest of the group do not respond. This might initially seem strange, but it's essential. None of us are there to offer advice or judgement. We are not listening with a plan to give an answer or solution. We are purely listening. It's incredible how a smile, nod, or eye contact can support someone, wordlessly. We never interrupt, instead allowing whoever is speaking to word their way to a comfortable conclusion.
The openness and vulnerability that make circle gatherings so special can only happen with the solid boundaries of respect and confidentiality. Connection in the moment is strengthened by the complete trust of the women involved - the very opposite of gossip.
Holding circles outdoors is a departure from the traditional idea of being in a closed and very private space. Our outdoor environment should allow us more freedom and create what I feel is a less intimidating level of intensity, but of course it does come with a lower level of privacy too. We plan to meet in a quiet place, but it will be less 'closed' and - like life - may be susceptible to distractions or interruptions! Our aim is to hold our focus despite these.
Of course at the moment (April 2021) we will be keeping safely to distancing guidelines, sitting two metres apart and keeping a group size of six. I invite everyone to bring their own drink if they wish, and you are welcome to bring your own mat or cushion to sit on if you prefer. To keep us all at the same level it's best to be seated on the floor rather than a chair, but if this is a barrier to your attending please do let me know and we can make it as inclusive as possible!
I'm so excited about starting these circles after a long time of disconnection over the winter. If you have any questions, please do message me on Facebook or Instagram, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The booking link will be on my Eventbrite very soon!
Sending lots of love, Emily x